ISIS, Social Media and Evil Branding

ted rall dear obama isis
Written by David Michaelis

ISIS news wins on social media despite Twitter and other corporate powers’s efforts to stop them through algorithms. — It would appear that ISIS news — images of beheadings and other horrible violence — has won out on social media. By “won out” I mean it has become prevalent, despite Twitter, Facebook and other corporate powers’ engineered algorithms to keep their feeds clear of such insidious visuals.

Twitter did manage to cancel some offending accounts, but limiting those few voices was just a drop in the virile, social ocean. You can still find the images on your mobile.

The Genius of Evil

ISIS has redefined the “Genius of Evil” in the modern, social age, and its methods are winning. Its overt tactics attract both passionate detractors and followers with unseen, inhumane cruelty. Essentially a terrorist start-up based on acts of obscene violence, ISIS figured out how to repel and rope in two audiences simultaneously.

It conceived of the difficult feat by perfecting its social media recruitment techniques over the last three years. A senior Australian Muslim cleric declared that there would not be 10,000 foreign fighters in ISIS right now without the power of “Sheik YouTube.” Likewise, a recent Newsweek poll stated that 27 percent of 18-24 year old French citizens supports ISIS.

No Editors Needed? Ferguson and ISIS

We are living in an era of very tough competition, so reaching the Muslim youth and winning their hearts and minds is no simple feat. ISIS managed a well designed content marketing and branding operation, using the tools our social networks have set in place.

GigaOm researchers point out that “algorithms are the new editors” of news streams. They claim that:

One of the players at the center of this debate is Facebook, since the massive social platform is a source of news for a large number of users — and therefore the algorithms it uses, and the design choices it makes, have a powerful influence on what news users either see or don’t see. The contrast between a filtered and an unfiltered view of the world was brought home during the recent civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., when Twitter users got a real-time flow of news that many users of Facebook missed out on completely.”

Ferguson news broadcast on Twitter was actually a win against mainstream media editors that neglected the case in the beginning.

If this is a true design challenge and not an editorial issue anymore, how does ISIS outwit the brilliant Twitter and Facebook designers? Apparently algorithms have taken the place of editors — or are challenging their role in an increasing number of ways. ISIS thinks this is an advantage to be used. No editors are present, therefore there are no human, moral or ethical judgements to limit their stream of news. The information highway for evil is free!

Experts say that,

Islamic State has also used various social media platforms, multimedia publications and even an appearance in a Vice News video series to target the coveted millennial demographic and spread news in their self-declared caliphate. Its main message? Join us or die.

This dramatic appeal to a specific age group that looks for solutions to its youthful dilemmas seems to work well. It is a very targeted attack according to the best rule of content marketing. That is why ISIS is the best branding campaign — for evil — in 2014.

It is an amazing achievement considering that Islamic State (ISIS) is not Islamic or a State by any normal measuring tool, according to varying senior Islamic authorities. Does ISIS have a secret marketing equation that the Silicon Valley algorithm masters missed out on?

In the fight for “hearts and minds” the winner is the one with the better digital brand management. Because, as marketing has proved, many people can be convinced of many things. Does the answer for peace and respite lie in the Muslim families whose are going abroad to become martyrs? Can they be organized to counter-attack the “Sheik YouTube”? When will Obama come up with a social media branding and marketing strategy that effectively counters ISIS?

See the infographic below for a further description of ISIS and how they use social media to expand their influence.

For, I’m David Michaelis.

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at